The situation at the Englewood Apartments in southern Platte County has brought attention to troubled complexes outside of the City of Kansas City, and what powers cities may have to correct any problems there.
Woodland Trace Apartments in Platte City, previously known as the Bello Mondo Apartments, were built in 1970 and contain 106 rental units located near Platte County High School. Online reviews for the complex are mixed, with former residents speaking out about conditions there due to the Citizen’s coverage of the Englewood Apartments in the southern end of the county.
According to Platte City administrator DJ Gehrt, there are no current complaints made to the city from tenants at Woodland Trace.
“The current property owner purchased the apartments several years ago and has been more active in addressing the sanitary sewer and stormwater systems and exterior safety (steps, porches, safety railings) than previous owners,” Gehrt said. “The city has greater authority to require system and exterior safety repairs compared to more limited authority to enter, inspect and require interior repairs.”
Former residents told the Citizen about renting units with cracked foundation walls, black mold and flash flooding during rain events as well as enduring insect infestations and problems with drugs and crime.
While the situation may have improved at the complex, readers have asked if the City of Platte City could implement a program like Kansas City’s new Healthy Homes initiative. Kansas City’s program was approved by voters in August 2018 and allows the city to investigate, inspect and if needed force improvements to rental housing.
“Platte City does not have a rental property inspection ordinance like the one approved by voters in Kansas City last year,” Gehrt said. “The Kansas City ordinance and the per unit landlord fee that is part of the ordinance creates a new fee and requires voter approval at a city wide election in order to comply with the Hancock Amendment.”
Gehrt said the city has some authority to become involved in property maintenance issues, but not civil disputes between tenants and landlords, other than to keep the peace.
“It is often a frustrating situation for tenant, landlord and city, especially since there have been times when property maintenance issues are tied to landlord/tenant payment disputes or eviction disputes,” he said.
While not specifically related to rental housing, officials in many Platte County municipalities are concerned about the condition of buildings in their cities.
Last week in Parkville, aldermen discussed the city’s ability to enforce abatement of potentially hazardous conditions in commercial buildings. The city attorney said municipal inspection powers are limited, as Gehrt outlined for Platte City.
The City of Weston instituted a commercial safety inspection program after the death of a Main Street business owner in a catastrophic fire in 2011.
In the Village of Ferrelview, the board of trustees is currently embroiled in a lawsuit concerning a trailer park within the village limits. While the lawsuit does not involve living conditions at the park, residents have complained to the board about various situations for years during public sessions.
At the Englewood Apartments in southern Platte County, the Kansas City Health Department conducted three re-inspections of units found unsuitable for habitation. All the violations from the first inspection held in August have been corrected, according to the health department. A corrective action plan for vacant units in need of more extensive repair was devised.
In mid-August, the City of Kansas City expanded its Healthy Homes Rental Inspection Program to include federally-subsidized housing such as Englewood Apartments. As such, city officials immediately vacated one building in the complex and ordered Millenia Housing Management — the owner of the complex — to house 10 families in nearby hotels at the management’s expense.
The city has recently removed its vacation notice from the building closed Labor Day weekend and will continue to monitor the situation.